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Ensemble Arts Academy’s summer camp helps hone students’ musical skills

Ensemble Arts Academy, 4040 N. Tenaya Way, has seen its summer program grow from a handful of students to nearly 50. This year marks the fifth anniversary of the facility’s Camp Rocks! Summer Music Day-Camp.

In between battling computer demons and juggling students around, founder Claude Borders said he was elated to see enrollment climb.

"It’s amazing," he said. "It’s grown by leaps and bounds. Last summer, we had 10 (youngsters taking instruction) at a time. We just discovered that 15 is not too bad; we can handle 15 in one session."

The camp is for children 7 to 13 and runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. The academy offers five two-week sessions. The last one will finish up just before school resumes.

Stage experience is part of the deal. At the end of each session, students perform somewhere in the community such as Town Square Las Vegas, 6605 Las Vegas Blvd. South, or Choices Pub, Grill & Showroom, 6720 W. Cheyenne Ave. The next performances are planned for 7 to 8 p.m. Aug. 3 at Tivoli Village, 302 S. Rampart Blvd., and 6 to 7 p.m. July 20 and Aug. 17 at Shari’s Diner, 1900 N. Buffalo Drive.

There are seven teachers for the various disciplines, including voice, woodwinds, brass and strings. Enrollment is dominated by voice at roughly 60 percent, with the remainder evenly split between guitar and piano, said director Amy Greenblatt.

The 1,100-square-foot facility contains four music rooms. A karaoke machine is used for voice lessons. The rooms include one piece of equipment not immediately connected to music: a full-length wall mirror.

"When you’re standing there, you want to make sure you have correct posture as you fill your diaphragm," said Greenblatt. "When playing the French horn or even guitar, you want to have the right posture."

Many students are involved in music programs at their school. For the camp, students are divided into groups of no more than five. They learn new songs so that by the second week, they are playing and memorizing them.

The summer sessions help them maintain or improve their prowess with voice techniques and music reading, and they can opt to write original music.

"There are so many different levels of musicianship," Borders said. "So we approach them at their level and try to push them beyond their limits for the 80 hours they’re with us. … We want them to enjoy their summer vacation, but we know challenging (their) minds with the arts is really good."

In the piano room, a computer system called Piano Wizard uses digital video recorder lessons to teach the piano. The program is disguised as a video game. A student sits before a piano keyboard and watches a screen. The song that is selected begins, and colored bars float across the screen in time with the music. The player strikes the corresponding colored key on the piano keyboard. At the end of the song, Piano Wizard rewards the student with the sound of applause.

"If you’ve never played the piano before … it takes them from the beginning steps all the way to intermediate," Greenblatt said. "It teaches you hand-eye coordination."

Tiana Paul, 10, said she likes the camp because she gets to have fun with her friends and can express herself.

Even though she has played piano since she was 5, she said the Piano Wizard was advantageous because "I get to play the songs that I don’t really know yet."

Ensemble sometimes brings in professional musicians to speak with the students. Growing up in a show business family is not unheard of for the students there.

Joelle Righetti-Jenson appears at Planet Hollywood Resort three days a week in "Vegas! The Show" as a singer and Cher impersonator. She also works at "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" at the Plaza.

Her son, Dante, 7, who is learning the piano, is in his second year at music camp. She said he is already showing an innate sense of rhythm.

"I think it’s a great way to get him in tune with music," she said of the summer program.

The school is looking to move to larger digs next year.

The cost of the camp starts at $299 with early enrollment. For more information, visit ensembleartsacademy.com.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.

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